USCIS estimates H-1B visa numbers but ignores green card problem

For the first time, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has released an official government estimate of the number of H-1B visa holders working in the United States. However, the H-1B estimate is inflated by hundreds of thousands of people who wait years to get green cards because of the low annual fee and country limits for employment-based immigrants, not mentioned in the USCIS report.

“A detailed analysis of current data has concluded that from [September 30, 2019], the population authorized to work H-1B is approximately 583,420, “according to the new USCIS report.” All aliens included in this number are nonimmigrants who have received authorization from the USCIS and the State Department (if applicable) to work. in a specialized H-1B occupation. “

The USCIS report identified foreign nationals with approved I-129 petitions for an H-1B that “has not adjusted to legal permanent resident (LPR) status, changed to another nonimmigrant state, or a United States consulate denied a visa to the United States if the beneficiary applied for consular processing abroad when the I-129 petition was approved. ” Before making those adjustments, USCIS identified 619,327 “authorized total sole beneficiaries.” (See Table 1.)

As noted in the report, the 583,420 figure exaggerates the number of people working in the H-1B state as of September 30, 2019. The USCIS analysis does not subtract “foreigners who had an H-1B status / visa valid but have abandoned their visa / status (leaving the United States permanently or did not attempt to enter the United States if they are beneficiaries of an approved I-129 petition for a new job.) Nor does it remove foreigners with the final estimate. a valid H-1B visa or H-1B nonimmigrant status who were denied entry into ports of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). ”

Most importantly, the USCIS report does not explain or mention that the estimated 583,420 holders of H-1B visas in the country would likely drop to less than 300,000 if people in H-1B status waiting in the immigrant wallet received ID cards. Employment-based residency right away, rather than waiting years or potentially decades.

There are more than 350,000 Indian professionals (as of November 2019) with approved I-140 petitions (and another 357,000 dependents) waiting in the employment-based immigrant portfolio, along with some 38,000 Chinese and 5,000 Filipino professionals.

An Indian-born university professor, who asked that his name not be used, has lived in the United States for nearly 23 years and earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree. in mathematics in the United States. He is a tenured professor at a Midwest university and teaches mathematics to American students. You have been working in H-1B status and have waited almost 11 years so far without receiving an employment-based green card. “The idea of ​​being uprooted due to new policies, regulations and executive orders is something that keeps people like me awake at night,” he told me.

Why do people wait so many years to get employment-based green cards? Country limits and low annual limits (140,000 annual green cards based on employment, about half of which go to dependents) combine to create long wait times for immigrants, and the waits for Indians are the longest. What are the country limits? “INA [Immigration & Nationality Act] it also specifies country limits equivalent to 7% of the total combined number of visas assigned to family and work preferences, “according to the United States Department of Homeland Security.” In 2017, these limits amounted to 25,620 immigrants from a single country. ” .

An analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy found that “an Indian in the second job-based preference could wait until 2138 to get a green card, which is further away than the setting for most science novels fiction”.

“The country limits force Indians to bear almost the entire burden of a broken system with the newest immigrants facing life-long waits for green cards,” according to a report by David Bier of the Cato Institute. He notes that Indians currently in the H-1B state “could die online even if they remain online as long as possible.”

People respond to bad government policies, and perhaps the worst policy proposal for American competitiveness is a provision in Donald Trump’s June 22, 2020 presidential proclamation that suggested a plan that, if applied and implemented, would generate Hundreds of thousands of H -1B visa holders outside of the United States. The plan would be to force foreign citizens to wait years for employment-based green cards to go through the “labor certification” process again, the first stage of the process for many highly skilled immigrants, hoping that many will not. succeed after administration changes the rules to make it less likely to happen. (See here for an analysis of this potential plan).

While the USCIS presents an interesting analysis on the number of H-1B visa holders currently working in the United States, the agency overlooked the real story about the employment-based immigration system. Analysts would agree that a bigger concern than the number of foreign-born scientists and engineers working in the H-1B state is whether the Trump administration will force talented people and their families out of the States. United.